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5 Tips for Apartment Hunters

By Jak Burke

I wanted to introduce our Real Estate expert Lynne Walrod who worked as an agent for two years and now handles this site for home-seekers. Going forward Lynne will be interviewing agents and brokers in the City looking for advice and tips for new home-seekers under “Tips by Lynne” so check back here for her regular column.

J – What are the biggest things people forget when going to look at a rental property?
L – A tape measure! Often an empty space creates the illusion of size that isn’t realistic. You’ll need to make sure all of your furniture fits without cluttering up the ambiance of an apartment. People also like a lot of light and that is good but they should also focus on noise too. If the apartment is inside a brownstone, for example, and has lovely big pre-war windows, but has had little renovation in terms of internal sound-proofing then you could get a lot of noise from other renters because most brownstones were built as single-family occupancy homes. If you can try to request to visit when other renters are home.

J – What financial paperwork should a renter have before looking at properties?
L – Make sure that you have the funds readily available to write that deposit check as landlords won’t wait for funds to clear. They will choose someone else. You should also have all your ducks lined up and ready to hand over: your most recent tax return, a letter of employment or employment status that can be verified (if you’re self-employed), a recent bank statement, your last 2-3 pay stubs, and references. Landlords in NYC require you to make 40-50 times the amount of monthly rent. So if the apartment is $3000 per month, you need to make at least $120,000 a year to qualify. If you don’t qualify, ask the agent if the building takes co-signers that can guarantee your lease for you. You will need to fill out an application and management will ask for identification. Most NYC rental agencies charge 15% of the annual rent as a fee for helping you obtain your rental (unless the apartment is “No Fee” which means management to paying fee directly to real estate agent). Make sure you know the difference and that you clarify to your agent if you only want to see “No Fee” apartments. And remember-they will check your credit!

J – What about buyers? What should they have in place before they go apartment shopping?
L – The most important thing is to make sure that you’re pre-approved by your bank and/or mortgage broker for a mortgage. The mortgage broker will help you figure out what you can afford based on your salary and finances. Again, if you have the funds but they’re tied up in other accounts you should move the funds into the account that you will use to purchase a property. Once your budget is in place, you can then choose a NYC real estate agent, Buyer’s real estate agents do not charge commission to the buyer for their services, they are paid by the seller’s agent when a deal closes. So, if you like your agent, be loyal as they are not paid for their hard work ’til you purchase an apartment. .

J – Do you need to hire a lawyer?
L – Absolutely! Buying a property is one of the most important and risky financial decisions you will ever undertake. It’s one that requires a calm knowledgeable head so that you don’t get caught out later on. Your lawyer will go over the entire contract rigorously and will be in constant contact with the seller’s attorney and the real estate agent. Make sure you are fully up to date with where your lawyer is in the process. Don’t be afraid to call him with updates.

J – How does one find a good broker?
L – Like everything else in life – search, search, and search again. You shouldn’t rely on one source alone no matter how reliable, like for example, an online consumer review site. You will want to ask your peers or relatives whom they used and why. You will also want to find out how long a particular broker has been in business and what their success rate is. . Most real estate agencies in the city have great biographies of all their agents on their websites so if you do your homework online, you should be able to find one that you feel suits your style. Once you have your agent, make sure they explain to you the difference between a co-op and a condominium. Most co-ops require more rigorous financials and you might qualify for the mortgage, but not necessarily the co-op board.

Lynne Walrod
Lynne manages the Baby Does NYC Real Estate site. She spent two years working in real estate for a top NYC firm. She lives near Columbus Circle with her husband.

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